Stefania lives in a small village of the Piedmont region and works as a nurse in Casale Monferrato a few miles away. Stefania is transgender. She started her transition two years ago, on the threshold of her 50th birthday.
“Perhaps my mother had always wanted a little girl, growing up, I had my hair long and dressed in clothes, let’s say, not very masculine. I was surrounded by twelve loving aunts, who looked after me with great care and set my lifestyle from school, education, play to Sundays at Mass. Since very young, I was a child who was very well taken care of. I was often asked to carry out purely feminine tasks such as cleaning vegetables or to assist with the cooking. In my basket of toys there were small irons, pots and pans…never screwdrivers or hammers”.
Stefania became aware of her identity when she was around 17 years old. “I was very emotional, female sensitivity always existed in me, but it didn’t identify with my body”. At 19 Stefania, Stefano at the time, threw himself into life without hesitation and left for Madagascar as a volunteer in a small gynecological hospital for a few months. “Shortly thereafter, I left for a new destination, Cuba”. In Havana he met a girl and fell in love. They got married and had a baby girl. Stefano, by now a well-trained nurse, was working in a hospital and helped there for years, still as a volunteer. “It was during the embargo and that was hard… I saw a lot of people die who could have been saved, I personally bought medicine and medical equipment, I even went to jail for helping people survive…”
He came back to Italy, alone with his very young daughter, since the mother decided not to join them. Stefano began to work in the most difficult departments from assisting to care for the terminally ill, to the pediatric emergency room, “My colleagues understood my sensitive character and always called me when it was a matter of nursing the little ones, often to treat them and calm them down, to”.
Despite the fact that Stefano was a hard worker and never neglected his duties, prejudice and discrimination hit him hard: “Where I worked, I was constantly sidelined, it was a bad time in my life because I couldn’t explain the anger towards me. Once, I was reported to the head of nursing services and was forced into psychoanalytic therapy. I was lucky, however, that her best friend was transgender person which positively influenced the final decision: no disciplinary or medical action was be taken against me”.
Stefano then joined an outpatient clinic in another part of the city and here he was reborn. His colleagues welcomed him without prejudice and formed true friendships. He stopped taking anti-anxiety drugs and suspended psychological therapy. He also became a columnist for local newspapers and radio.
“I remember when I was younger, during my most difficult years, I had no idea that there were organizations that could help me. Thanks to my cousin in Palermo, one of the organizers of Palermo Pride, I began to learn and be active in the LGBTQ+ community. In Alexandria (a town in Piedmont), I became a committee member of the Pride parade, held two years ago for the first time”.
Stefania’s transition, still in its early stages, is progressing well. “I am being treated in Turin, at the San Giovanni Antica Sede Hospital (SGAS). I have already undergone some interventions such as eye and nose surgery …soon it will be time for the vocal cords. I’m a little worried because one of my passions is singing which gives me so much strength”.
“They call me a steamroller, because I’ve been through so many hardships in life, but I’ve rolled through them and I’ve always given it my full best. Even when my father laughed at me when I came out, when he cut me out of his life completely, and also when my mother stopped talking to me…Well, it all started from there and I learned to face life on my own. I also excelled as a basketball coach, reaching some incredible goals with the Armani Jeans youth team. I was almost ready to leave healthcare, but I realized that my real job was to continue where I was”.
Stefania doesn’t’t believe that big cities are very receptive and inclusive. “Perhaps, if I had lived in a big city everything would have been even more difficult. Transgender people are often identified as people of ill repute, outcasts and prostitutes. I am none of those things. I love my job and the people, even the older ones, who surprise me every day with their appreciation for the quality of my work. I have never received any sign of contempt from them, on the contrary! I travel from village to village in these hills every day, so none of my patients are left out, and they all welcome me with a sincere smile. In a small town like mine and in the neighboring villages it is the substance of the work, more than the sexual identity that makes the difference. Life here is like being in a nest, it makes me peaceful, accepted. This has radically changed my life, I’m calm, I’ve even gained some weight and I can enjoy going on vacation again”.
During the interview Stefania often talks of her daughter she raised alone. Odalis is 24 and a beautiful woman who has already gathered experience in the world of Italian and Argentinean entertainment. “I have always taken care of my daughter; we have a heart-felt connection. I used to go with her to parties and we had a lot of fun. We were known as the father and daughter couple. She’s a very down-to-earth person and we’ve been through a lot together. Now she’s starting to work in marketing in Turin and it makes me very proud. Of course, when first I told her my intention to start the transition, it was not easy for her. Nowadays, it’s much better and we even exchange makeup and creams. We are more connected than before”.
We started this article talking about a suitcase….
It’s not just a metaphor for Stefania’s journey, it’s a real object in her memories. “When I was a male, I used to go dancing, I would get in my car dressed as a man, with a suitcase full of women’s clothes and make-up. Upon arriving at my destination, I would change my clothes before entering the club. The suitcase has always been with me in the search for myself. Another object in my suitcase is a wig. For a while I had the wrong wig. It did not suit me right and created a deep sense of insecurity and instability. When I found the right one, more a tune with my personality, everything was easier. Today I feel like a well-balanced person, appreciated and respected for who I am. A person like any other, who does her duty and also brings a smile to those who needs it. What sets me apart? Could it be the medicine and pills I take in the morning and evening for my transitional therapy? I don’t believe so”.